Memory Lane … Scrolling Microfilm

I recently spent a little time in memory lane, remembering how family research used to be a lot more time consuming than it (usually) is today. So many researchers don't need to spend time slowly scrolling through microfilms to find records they need because there are so many records online and search tools work so well.

I'm not saying "in the old days we had to walk up hill both ways to find any records". I'm talking about whether we – and I do include myself – remember that the search results are not always the whole picture. Most of the big record sites, such as or, to a great job searching the records they put online … but they don't always search ALL records. They usually only search the most popular record collections.

So what, you ask? Well, what if your ancestor's name isn't exactly what you think it was? But seeing other family members on the record would tell YOU it is the same person? What if they don't search some records that could tell you where or when they moved?

Before the ease of computer searches, researchers had to find the record first, decide if it was worth the time to search, and then dig into the record. Sometimes there was an index and sometimes there wasn't. In the latter case, you were were stuck slowly scrolling through each page of the microfilm.

I found myself doing just that today with the 1865 New York State census. I know where my great-grandmother, Mary Teresa Maroney (Moroney, etc) was living in 1860 and 1870. She was even in the same town in 1880. But when I search the online records, I don't find her in 1865. She was only 15 so she wasn't trekking across the globe. Or even the state.

So I found myself traveling down memory lane by slowing 'scrolling' through each image in the collection. I am checking each name on the page – a very congested page – for anything that looks like her name. I'm also looking for her father and sister.

I'm only on page 10 of 264 but I will go through them all, just like in the old days before convenient computer searches, because that's what we need to do sometimes. Back down memory lane … wish me luck.



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